Profound love of Jesus a light in darkest of times
During his earthly mission, Jesus went about cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God and healing every disease and sickness.
When Jesus looked at the crowds who were following him, he was moved to compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Many were searching for a person, message, or sign which would bring authentic spirituality, meaning, purpose and fulfilment into their lives. But the Jewish religion of the day was barren and failed to satisfy their deepest needs.
Jesus summoned the 12 apostles and gave them authority to do what he was doing - healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons and proclaiming the good news: "The kingdom of heaven has come near".
The apostles set out on this great commission with Jesus to change the direction and history of the world. They would be with Jesus, to be taught by him, to experience the in-breaking kingdom of God and to proclaim the new Messianic Age that was dawning.
The kingdom would be felt, and signs of the kingdom of heaven would be seen, transforming people's lives. Underlying and surrounding all this would be an element of profound and vital importance, namely the character and nature of the one at the centre, Jesus.
At this point, I want you to imagine meeting Jesus on a street in Nazareth. Imagine living in Nazareth when Jesus was running a carpenter's shop to support his family. You are out and about the town. Jesus is also out in the town. You are known to Jesus and his family. You meet Jesus on the street. He asks how things are going. He inquires about your family. He has heard that your granny hasn't been well and is keen to know if she's getting better. He wonders if your new pet kitten is fitting in okay with the family. Jesus shows an interest in how things are going with you.
Here we see key elements in the character and nature of Jesus - his interest, kindness and love. Here is a simple truth which we must hold in view if we are to participate with Jesus in his great mission today. At the centre will be love for every person.
The shocking and tragic news that has compelled our attention in recent days is the fire in London in which 79 people have been killed in the most horrific of circumstances. People silhouetted against their windows and perishing in the blaze. It disturbs and distresses us to the very core of our being. We want urgently to help, but we can only avert our eyes and pray.
In retrospect, I share with you my concern that our Prime Minister did not go firstly and directly to the scene of the fire and the families there. That powerful gesture was crying out to be made on behalf of every family of the UK.
We needed to see her identifying with the people in their most unbearable suffering and standing alongside them. The expression of love and human solidarity - particularly in that circumstance - is so important.
Love for those who perished and their families.
Love for the broken-hearted.
Love for those who have lost their homes.
Love for those who feel devastated and lost.
As we think of the loving nature and character of Jesus, let us pray that all who have suffered so terribly in the fire will know the profound love of Jesus in the time of their greatest need.